I struggled with the title for this post. Business Networking is an important activity, always, but it’s tricky at a bridal show. It’s as much about etiquette as anything else (so that will be Part 2).
Bridal Show & Industry Context
Let’s take a more strategic approach, and recognize the bridal show ecosystem does not only exist in 2-3 days of set-up and show. It’s not limited to meetings of the Las Vegas Wedding Network or the myriad of other industry events and organizations.
Networking in the wedding industry is a fluid group of business and personal relationships, that in their greatest focus, under the pressure cooker of short bursts of face-to-face selling situations.
Pre-Show Awareness & Interaction
There are several show factors you have total control over. You can either use them to your advantage, or get distracted by 101 other things.
Within your control!
- Time: Unlike many other bridal show locations in many cities, advance access and ease of entry is not a problem at Cashman Center. To the degree that you have planned your booth and staffed its set-up, you are light-years ahead. Bonus points for you!
- Checklists, reminders, and extra staff: Designing your booth decor, and creating bridal show magic is the big picture, though it’s easy to let details get the best of you. Take my checklist, please… add to it, double and triple-check it. There is no bigger waste of time than sending a co-worker back to the office or off to the store to grab something tiny, but necessary.
- Pre-Show Awareness: Bridal Spectacular publishes an interactive floor-plan of exhibitors. It’s color-coded per category of business, and the name of each exhibitor pops-up on mouse-over the booth location. It’s wise to review the entire gathering of exhibitors: Friendly competitors, fierce competitors, your inner circle of peers, business you know (but not that well), and unfamiliar businesses.
- Plan Your Interactions: You’ve identified the WHO. Now think about the WHEN and WHAT. The major time frames are:
- Set-Up: From the time the building is open, until you change into show-wear.
- During the Show
- During the Fashion Show
- Meal Breaks
- Break-Down: Until the last wedding business has exited the building.
- 30-days post show
- Any time you can visit with other exhibitors, without being underfoot, it is a relationship building (or maintaining) opportunity. That’s why making use of the greatest time available to you is highly desirable. You’re not rushed, you can be of help to others, if they need a hand… duct tape, scissors, a ladder, a cup of coffee or a breath mint. It’s just being neighborly and sometimes, you can really come to the rescue.
- If you’re well-staffed, and have people rotating booth-duty throughout the show, walk the showroom, but from a distance. Resist the temptation to drop in, if you can. A friend’s booth can be vacant for a just a moment.
- Instead, before the show starts, plan for a coffee or lunch break with a peer, at a mutually convenient time during the show. Your brain needs the break. Use the time to your advantage.
- Friday night: Resist the temptation to go out for ‘a cocktail’. I mean, who goes out for ‘A cocktail.’ Remember, you have a full show day on Saturday. If you still have stamina, plan a small get-together for Saturday evening.
- You don’t get extra points for being the first one gone at the end of show, Saturday. Take a similar mindset to set-up day. Pack up without a stopwatch, and see what you can do to help others. There doesn’t have to be a specific goal in mind. Just be thoughtful and allow yourself to begin to relax.
- Wedding Industry people know each other. Not everyone, but lots of people. Use the time around Bridal Spectacular to its fullest. Rejuvenate these relationships by setting up coffees, breakfast, dinner at someone’s home (what a concept), or general hang-around time.
Remember to Breathe
Next time: Bridal Show Etiquette Part 1 – No Party Crashers
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog